West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive

 

 

The Way to Healing
Frodo experiences peace and pain as he is healed in Valinor.
Author: Arien
Rating: G
Category: Canon-Angst/Drama

 

Disclaimer: All characters and places created by the visionary J.R.R. Tolkien.
 
Author's Notes: This is quite a long story, almost novella-length, so it will be divided into four parts. I tried to stay as true to the books as I possibly could, but unfortunately Tolkien was not as detailed with the Valar and Valinor as he was with the rest of Middle-earth. Feedback, both positive and negative, is welcomed and appreciated.


1.

On October 6, Frodo Baggins fell ill on Tol Eressea, within sight of the Blessed Realm.

In the early morning, before the Sun had reached Tol Eressea, he awoke from a dream of the Sea that lay on the edge of his waking mind. He had wanted to believe that here, within sight of the Undying Lands, the chronic illness that had striken him would disappear, but it had not. He cried out, both in pain and in dismay that his illness had returned. He felt soft, warm hands on his face and body, and gentle voices whispered to him. He opened his eyes slowly, half expecting to see the familiar walls of Bag End. Instead of cozy wood panels, however, he saw beautiful Elvish archetecture with high ceilings and large furniture. It all came back to him: his goodbyes to his friends, leaving Middle-earth, his journey to Tol Eressea. His heart ached for the Shire in that moment, and for Sam, and for all the familiar things he knew across the Sea.

He moaned softly at the pain he felt and the aching in his heart. One of the warm hands went to his forehead, smoothing back his sweaty hair. His shoulder and side had the ache and icy feeling he remembered from his Nazgul wound, but the darkness wasn't as deep around him as it had been before, in Middle-earth. Frodo could make out shapes: two Elves, a male and a female, tended to him. They glowed with a gentle golden light to his eyes and he felt comforted by their presence. He wondered where they had come from and how they had known he was ill.

He heard another voice talking quietly in the Elf-tongue. It was deeper and gruffer than the others and sounded familiar. He turned his head slowly to see who it was, and saw a figure he recognized, robed in white. "Gandalf," Frodo said, his voice barely above a whisper. "Why --"

"Frodo." Gandalf walked over to the bed, laying a hand on his head with care and pity. "We know you are ill. Save your strength." He stroked his hair, a feeling of fondness deep within his touch.

The two Elves gently dressed him in warm clothing, and a thick silky blanket with a clean scent was wrapped around him. "No, please, I'm all right," Frodo insisted in a weak voice that did not sound convincing. "I'm just a bit tired. I want to rest." The Elves either did not understand him or they ignored him. Gandalf lay a gentle hand on his aching shoulder. "Let them take care of you," he said.

After Frodo was well-wrapped, one of the Elves, the male, lifted him out of bed, letting Frodo rest his head on the Elf's strong shoulder. He wondered where they were taking him and why it was necessary to take him out of bed to do it. Were there healers here in Tol Eressea? Elves never became ill, as far as he knew.

The two Elves and Gandalf were walking down a long open hallway, talking in hushed voices. Frodo remembered walking it three days before, when he and Bilbo had first arrived at Avallone, the city of Tol Eressea. It was dimmer now, shadowed in grey. He felt a warm, soft hand clutching his left one, but the sensation was faint and far away. Where was Bilbo?

They had reached the end of the hallway and were now outside, facing a path. Shadowfax, Gandalf's beloved horse, was waiting, and the wizard quickly mounted him. The Elf cradled Frodo in his arms, and when he saw the horse, memories of the endless, painful ride from Weathertop to Rivendell seized him. He cried out again, feebly trying to escape the arms of the Elf that carried him. "Don't worry, Frodo. It will only be a short ride." Gandalf was speaking again. Why did he have to go for a ride anyway? All Frodo really wanted was to rest and let the day pass as quickly as it could.

The Elf lifted Frodo up and handed him to Gandalf. They were both trying to be as gentle as they could as to not hurt him, but the very movement made him feel ill. He let out a small cry and longed to ask Gandalf where he was going. Why didn't they just leave him be? He would be well by the end of the day, he always was.

Frodo now sat in front of Gandalf. He spoke more to the two Elves, and then Shadowfax was running. It was hard for Frodo to tell where they were going, as everything was misty and grey. He saw glimmers of light around him and knew he was still in Avallone. The roaring of the Sea could be heard in the distance and the air smelled slightly of salt.

"Where is Bilbo?" Frodo asked quietly. He had last seen him the night before, when the aging hobbit had fallen asleep as he listened to the after-dinner songs and tales. As a matter of fact, Frodo couldn't remember going to bed at all. He couldn't even remember going to sleep. It was just like in Rivendell, when he had trouble keeping awake in the Hall of Fire...

Frodo's thoughts were broken as Gandalf answered him. "He's fine. He knows about your illness and that you will return. Do not fear for him."

"Where --" Frodo began to ask, but Gandalf quieted him. "No more questions. Sit quietly and try to preserve your strength."

Frodo did as Gandalf asked. He felt exhausted and his body ached. Shadowfax was running over smooth ground, and Frodo could hear singing mixed with the melancholy music of the Sea in the distance. The stars shone like gemstones in the night sky, and they comforted Frodo, enough that he was able to fight off the darkness in his mind. Overcome with weariness, he fell fast asleep.


The fires of Mount Doom flared before him. He held the Ring in his palm and his hand ached to put it on. The rational part of his mind screamed that he must destroy it, that he had come all this way to destroy it, but it was drowned out by the Ring, calling his name strongly. "Frodo. Frodo!" Why shouldn't he keep it? It was his, after all. He'd kept it hidden for seventeen years just so he could throw it away now? "It's mine!" he heard himself saying. "I refuse to throw it away! The Ring is mine!"

Suddenly, Frodo was jarred back to consciousness. Gandalf had been calling his name, and looked down on him in pity and concern. He tried to sit up, but Gandalf gently held him down. "Lay down, Frodo."

He was in a narrow bed, and the bed was...moving. The movement made him feel sick. It was a rocking that he remembered distantly. Why was it so dark? "Where am I?" he asked quietly. The movement made him feel sicker.

"We are going to Valinor." Gandalf sat down at the end of the narrow bed, looking at Frodo.

"Why? I wanted to stay with Bilbo." He paused. "Why are we rocking, Gandalf? I feel sick enough already."

Gandalf laughed. "We're on a ship, Frodo. We have a bit to sail, and then we will reach the shores of Valinor. Then, we have a ride to the gardens of Lorien." He patted Frodo's knee. "You will be back with Bilbo soon. There is someone in Valinor who must see you." He smiled gently at Frodo. "How are you feeling?"

Frodo shivered, and used his right arm to pull the blanket closer to him. "It is very dark, Gandalf," he said, his voice sounding distant in his own ears. "My shoulder and side pain me. I thought that I would never feel the pain again, but it has returned." Frodo remembered the pendant that Arwen had given him and found it still hanging on its chain around his neck. He wrapped his right hand around it, trying to remember the way she had looked sitting by the fountain in Minas Tirith just so that it would push the shadows away. A tear slipped down his cheek. Even now, at the very edge of the Blessed Realm, he longed to return home and look upon the city again. The faces of his friends passed before him: Sam...Merry...Pippin...Aragorn. Had he made the wrong decision? Could he ever be healed?

The cold and ache seized him and he moaned in pain. Gandalf grabbed his left hand and held it firmly. It felt cold, but did not have the icy stillness that it had after his wounding three years ago. "It will pass, Frodo," he said, trying to comfort the hobbit as best he could. "The darkness is but a memory. The Shadow has departed. Nothing can hurt you here."

"Memory or not, it still hurts. Where will I find rest? I couldn't find it in the Shire and it still escapes me here." After a long pause, Frodo began to cry. It hurt him a great deal, in his weakened state, but he couldn't help it. The last time he had cried like this was in Minas Tirith. He had been trying to teach himself how to write again, now that he only four fingers on his right hand. His lettering had been fair before, back in his days in the Shire, but in Minas Tirith it had been clumsy and his pen kept slipping from his imperfect grasp. He'd broken down and wept in frustration and anger, lying in a heap on the floor, his body choking with violent sobs that had longed to escape.

Gandalf's heart broke as he watched Frodo weep. He'd known that bearing the Ring would take a heavy toll, but seeing his pain firsthand was completely different. The hobbit had done what no one else, even Gandalf himself, could have done. He would never fully recover, never be able to be the person he once was. The quest had been achieved, but the burden had been too much. Gandalf thought back to the first time he had ever seen Frodo, when the hobbit had been a child in the Shire, listening intently to his Uncle Bilbo's fantastic stories about Elves and Trolls and treasures hidden deep in mountains. 'Are you Gandalf, from my uncle's stories?' the young hobbit had asked when they first met. He had been so innocent then, his eyes full of excitement and wonder instead of the dulled light that they often had now.

Jarring Gandalf from his thoughts, Frodo cried out sharply as pain shot down his arm and side. Gandalf whispered his name, holding his cheeks in his hands in an effort to comfort him. Frodo moaned as another wave of pain went through his body, making him cry harder, tears of pain now mixing in with his sadness. His body shook with sobs, his chest ached, and his side and arm throbbed. It was more than he could bear and he started gasping for breath.

Gandalf lifted the hobbit tenderly out of the narrow bed, letting Frodo rest his head on his shoulder. He wrapped a blanket around him as he would a child, rubbing his back, hoping that his touch would give him some comfort. With the sobbing hobbit in his arms, he walked up a short flight of stairs, out to the deck where the stars Elbereth herself had kindled were still shining in the night sky. The water was dark in the starlight and there was peace in the air.

He cradled Frodo gently in his arms. The hobbit's eyes were closed, but his body shook violently with sobs and he was still gasping. "Open your eyes, Frodo," he whispered. Frodo did, tears spilling down his cheeks. He saw the beauty of the night sky here at the edge of Valinor, more breathtaking than it could ever have been in Middle-earth. "Varda the Kindler herself dwells near here, as real as you and I are," Gandalf said. "You might see her someday. She has the light of Illuvatar himself in her face and is too beautiful for any words to describe. Este the Healer has the strength of a thousand proud warriors of Gondor and a hand as gentle as a summer wind. The gardens of Lorien have flowers of every color and the water of the fountains is as silver as the Moon himself. There is also Yavanna the Giver, the mother of all growing things, who is as tall and beautiful as a mallorn tree." Frodo had stopped crying and was now listening to Gandalf's gentle voice, but his body still shook with silent sobs. His dark eyes gazed upward. "Frodo, there is so much beauty and joy here that I ache to think of it. It does not have a dark edge of worry and expectancy, like in Lothlorien or Rivendell. It is perfect, as deep as the Sea which separates it from all else." He paused. "Once you are healed, you will never feel loneliness or pain or fear again. You will no longer feel the call of the Ring haunting your heart, or be troubled by evil dreams. Such is the gift of the Blessed Realm." He looked down at Frodo. The hobbit's body was still. He was pale and his left side was cold, but his breathing was easy. He stared up at the night sky, his right hand clasping the jewel Arwen had given him, a look of peace in his eyes.

 

2.

He was dreaming again. He always dreamed of the Sea on these dark days, among other dreams. He ran across a long white stretch of beach, a white bell-shaped seashell gripped tightly in his hand. The sand gleamed as if it were made of jewels: pearls, amethysts, emeralds, and diamonds. There was a sense of urgency in his rapid steps -- what was he looking for?

He heard a voice singing in the distance, a slow gentle song he thought he had heard before, ages ago in Rivendell. He was running to find who it was that sang. Something told him that the voice would guide him home. He started to run faster, drawn by the voice, but his feet began to sink deep into the wet sand. The more he tried to pull himself out, the deeper he sank. The effort exhausted him and his lungs burned. "I can't go on any further," he said sadly.

He felt something warm on his forehead and opened his eyes. He was still aboard the ship, to his dismay: the rocking was now more gentle but it still made him feel sick. Instead of Gandalf looking down at him, he was staring at a female Elf, dark-haired with blue eyes full of kindness. It was her voice, singing to him, that he had heard in his dream. She had placed a warm cloth on his forehead, and her warm hand grasped his cold left hand. She sang to him in a quiet voice, stroking his dark curly hair.

"I know your song," he whispered, his voice dry and cracking. "I heard you calling in my dream. I tried to run to your voice, but I fell deeper into the sand."

"Of course you know it, Frodo," the Elf said in the Common Speech. "I sang it to you in Rivendell, when you were ill. It is a song of healing. Your friend Sam very much enjoyed it."

Frodo felt an ache in his heart at the name of Sam. He swallowed hard. "I can't remember much from that time. I am sorry, Lady."

She laughed softly. "There is no need for an apology." Her hands and voice were tender. "My name is Bethilien. I am a healer that dwelt in Imladris with Elrond and I came West with his household. I helped him tend you while you were ill. Mithrandir asked me to stay with you for a while." She placed her hand on his cheek. "Are you feeling better?"

Frodo's chest hurt from his earlier crying, but the pain in his shoulder and side had lessened. The room was not quite as dark and cold as it had been before. "Yes, Lady...Bethilien. Thank you."

Bethilien smiled. "We are closer to Valinor. It is now late in the morning." Frodo still felt weak, but he had questions he wanted answers for. "Why did we leave so early?"

She laughed again, a joyous sound. "Mithrandir told me you would ask questions. The reason why we left early is because of you, Frodo," she answered. "He wanted to get you here as soon as he could. He had wanted to take you straight here after you arrived in Eressea, but it seemed to him that you wanted to rest and he reconsidered. Once you fell ill last night, he decided to take you to Valinor immediately. You will still be ill when we reach it, but the sense of darkness will be weaker."

Frodo tried to remember the night before. He recalled having dinner with Bilbo and a large group of Elves, and then they had all gone to a hall to have music and storytelling. Bilbo had fallen asleep, but Frodo had remained awake, listening to the fair voices speaking in the ancient tongue. Had he fallen ill? He did not remember. The first thing he remembered was being awakened by the Elves and Gandalf. He had been in bed, but could not recall how he had gotten there.

Bethilien seemed to sense his train of thought. "You fell ill, and I and another took you away and put you in bed. I found Mithrandir and told him what had happened, and he told me to dress you warmly and prepare you for the trip to Valinor. I offered to come with him so you could be cared for."

"You were there, before." Frodo dimly remembered her, clutching his lifeless left hand as the other Elf carried him through the hallway. Bethilien nodded. "I knew right away what had happened when I saw you lying in the hall, pale-faced, cold as night, and haunted by a dark dream. We had hoped in Imladris you would make a complete recovery, but the wounds of the Enemy are grievous." The Elf wrapped Frodo's blanket closer around him. "Are you hungry?"

Frodo considered this. The rocking of the boat, gentle as it was, was still making him feel sick. "No, thank you," he said. "I'm just a bit thirsty." She gently lifted Frodo, taking care not to injure his shoulder even though the wound was long closed, and let him drink some water in small sips. It was cool and felt relieving on his parched throat. She placed him back down on the bed, dipping the cloth in a bowl of warm water near the bed and placing it back on his forehead. The warmth comforted and relaxed him, and he felt sleep come over him again. It was so hard to stay awake when he was ill...

"I know you are tired." Bethilien's voice was kind. "Rest now. The journey will soon be over, and you will be on dry land and away from the rocking." He felt her hand stroking his hair as the urge to sleep conquered him again.



It was nearly sunset when Gandalf roused him. Frodo had not had another dream, which he was grateful for. He also felt a bit stronger and was able to sit up, though Gandalf insisted on helping him. He missed Bilbo terribly and longed to see the old hobbit. He hadn't wanted to be separated from him so soon, and even though Gandalf had told him not to worry, Frodo still did.

"Bethilien told you about what happened," Gandalf remarked as he sat back down on the bed after helping Frodo sit up. "I am sorry that I did not leave you in bed at Avallone today. I thought you would be sick, but I never expected you to fall as ill as you did. As soon as she told me, I wanted to take you here as soon as I could."

"I am still amazed that these great people take the time to show me such kindness," said Frodo. This made Gandalf laugh. "You are the Ringbearer, Frodo!" he exclaimed. "You are an Elf-friend and a great person in your own right, although your hobbit humility prevents you from seeing that." He stood up from where he was sitting on Frodo's bed. "Do you feel strong enough to walk a bit? I think the fresh air will do you good. We are also coming into view of Valinor, and I would like you to see it."

Frodo nodded. "I would like to see it, very much." With the help of Gandalf, he slowly got out of bed. He was still dressed warmly in the travelling clothes Bethilien and her friend had put on him. He found he could move his left arm a little more, but his side and shoulder still hurt. Gandalf wrapped the thick blanket around Frodo and kept his hand on his right shoulder as the hobbit took a few slow steps. The boat was still rocking gently and so it made it harder for Frodo to keep his balance, but Gandalf was steadfast against him and would not let him fall. Slowly, Frodo and Gandalf walked upstairs to the main deck.

Frodo's vision, still slightly dim, was filled with the golden light of sunset. The sky was filled with color: red, purple, and coral all mixed to make the most breathtaking sunset Frodo had ever seen. The water of the Sea glinted at the edges in the low light. He walked with Gandalf to the edge of the deck and stood there, feeling the gentle warmth of the wind running through his hair. He breathed in as deeply as he could, feeling a sense of renewal in the air. "It's beautiful, Gandalf," he said, his voice filled with awe.

Gandalf pointed ahead with his left hand, his right one still against Frodo's shoulder. "Look, Frodo," he said. "We are just beginning to see Valinor." Frodo looked in the direction he pointed, and saw a long white shore with high cliffs and tall green mountains in the distance. "Sunset is the most celebrated part of the day here. The Elves sing as the Sun disappears over the horizon and the stars rise soon afterward." He paused. "This is my home, Frodo: Middle-earth was just a stopping point, a place where I was sent to do what I had to. I could never call any other place but Valinor my home." Gandalf fell silent, lost in his own memories.

Frodo felt honored to be by Gandalf's side, and was amazed by the beauty of the land in front of him, but his heart still longed for the familiar hills and woodlands of the Shire, even though it promised no peace. Valinor, to him, seemed a place of dream rather than reality, a distant place spoken of only in song and story. Even though it was now in front of him, he still felt separated from it, as if it were a dream he would suddenly wake from. Would he ever find a place he could call home, or would he be doomed to wander as Gandalf had in Middle-earth?

Gandalf felt Frodo's disquiet, and patted him gently on his shoulder. "Out of all the sacrifices made in the name of defeating the Enemy, yours is among the most grievous. I know that you miss the Shire and all you knew, and you may spend a very long time missing it. Such is the price you have had to pay, and you did not deserve it." He looked down at Frodo, who still stood, looking forward to the white shore in front of him. "I know that Valinor seems distant to you right now, Frodo, but it will not always be that way. You are meant to find a place to call home, and you will." The two of them stood there, at the edge of the deck, still shadows against the golden light of the Sun as the ship grew closer to the Blessed Realm.

 

3.

Gandalf and Frodo had reached the shores of Valinor on the night of October 6th, and Frodo had marvelled at them, because inside the white sands were gemstones like those he had seen in his dreams. The shore had been dark in his dreams and he had been afraid, but here there was nothing to be afraid of. He had taken a long walk on the beach, feeling the wet sand between his toes and on the soles of his feet, and admiring the way the stones glistened in the starlight. Though the shores were filled with jewels, they did not cut him or hurt his feet to walk on them. Gandalf had kept an eye on him, wanting to make sure that Frodo did not tire or fall ill again. Frodo's weariness had lessened when they reached Valinor: though he was still tired, he was eager to explore.

As they departed, Frodo said farewell to Bethilien, who was returning to dwell in Tol Eressea for a while with her kindred and friends. "I hope to see you again soon, Frodo," she said, kissing him on his forehead. He asked her if she could send his love and greetings to Bilbo, and she agreed. "I'm sure he will try to be content among us until you return," she said, and Frodo laughed. She climbed back on the quay and stood for a moment, raising her hand to them in parting.

Frodo and Gandalf had ridden together on Shadowfax, who ran at his own pace. Sometimes Gandalf had told him stories of Aman and all the things that were built there, and other times they both were silent, watching the beautiful landscape as it passed by. Now that he was in Valinor, it felt much more real to Frodo, although he still had trouble thinking of it as home. He missed his friends terribly and thought of them often. Gandalf seemed to sense when he thought of them, because he would pat Frodo's shoulder as if to let him know he knew how the hobbit felt.

Frodo had noticed a change in Gandalf since they had reached Valinor. It seemed to him that all the care he had worn in Middle-earth had been cast away: he still resembled an old man with a long white beard, but his eyes were bright as stars and a look of joy and contentment was always in them. He laughed often in pure merriment, and often put his arms around Frodo, which he had rarely done before.

After ten days of journey, they reached their destination. "The gardens of Lorien are the fairest in all of Arda. It is a place where even the Valar themselves find rest and peace." "Like Lothlorien?" Frodo had asked, and Gandalf laughed. "Better than Lothlorien," he replied. It was late afternoon when they arrived, and Gandalf had bade Frodo to drink from the fountains. "The water will heal your weariness for a time." The water was cool with a slightly sweet taste, and it did make him feel better. It reminded him of the waters of the Nimrodel on the border of Lothlorien.

He and Gandalf had sat down on the grass, and Gandalf had pulled out his much-loved pipe and had a long smoke. "I must enjoy the weed I have left, because there's no going back to the Southfarthing to get any more," he remarked. Frodo laughed. "I figured there wouldn't be a single thing you would miss about the Shire." A look of false shock appeared on Gandalf's face. "Now what would make you think that, my dear hobbit? Of course I'll miss the Shire -- your wine and pipe-weed were renowned in Middle-earth, and the Elves certainly can't throw a party like you could." His eyes twinkled with merriment and Frodo almost fell over laughing. "Ah, so that's why you spent so much time with us!" They both laughed together -- it was the best laugh that Frodo had had in a very long time.

He and Gandalf had sat together until night fell, talking about old times. Once sunset had passed and night had fallen, Gandalf had left. "There is someone I wish to speak to," he had said. "I will be back shortly." Now Frodo sat, listening to the sounds of the voices around him, deep and musical with knowledge and time. The night air felt cool on his skin and a gentle breeze blew, the leaves of the willow trees flowing with it. The stars glowed above in the sky, and candles and lamps filled his vision with golden light.

Suddenly, he felt a gentle hand on his left shoulder. It paused there, and Frodo turned around to see who was touching him. A woman knelt behind him. She looked Elvish, but was different from any Elf he'd ever seen. She seemed much taller than was normal for an Elf, and she shone with a light that was so bright, her body was barely able to contain it. Her raiment was grey and embroidered with leaves that sparkled in the moonlight. The linen she wore seemed to be made of moonlight itself. Her hair was silver and it shone with a blue sheen, and her face was both wise and fair. Her eyes were closed and she looked deep in thought. She was one of the most beautiful women Frodo had ever seen.

"Lady?" Frodo whispered, trying to get her attention. She did not move, her eyes still closed deep in thought and her hand on his shoulder. She opened her eyes, which were grey as the Sea on a stormy day, and smiled at him gently. "Frodo Baggins," he heard her say, in a deep yet musical voice filled with a sense of ages past. A moment later he realized that she had never opened her mouth. He stared at her in amazement, a breath catching in his throat. Who was this woman?

Rising up and walking around him, she then knelt on the grass in front of Frodo. She took his hands into hers, his tiny hands dwarfing her large and beautiful ones. She stroked them gently, looking at his palms and then staring deep into his eyes. Frodo remembered when the Lady Galadriel had looked at him like that, long ago in Lothlorien. He had felt naked in the sheer power of her gaze, but this time it was different. He felt nothing but love and kindness from this woman. She could see right into his soul with her wise grey eyes, but he didn't feel as if she were testing him. It seemed to Frodo that she was only curious, seeking not to judge but only understand him.

"You carry deep wounds, Frodo Baggins," he heard her say. "It will not be easy for you to be healed." He felt tears sting his eyes and his chest burned. "Is there no hope for me, Lady?" he whispered. One slipped down his cheek, but the Lady brushed it away, laying her hand on his cheek. Her eyes were kind. She stroked his right hand, grasping his fingers, placing her thumb where his missing finger should have been. "There is always hope, Ringbearer," she said. "But you must face the darkness inside you before you can see the light."

More tears slipped down his cheeks, but the Lady brushed them away. He felt ashamed for crying in front of her. "Do not be ashamed," she said. "You have done what no other could, and you pay for it dearly. You have come so far, from everything you know, to seek what aid we can give you here. But you fear that it has been in vain."

"That is what I fear, Lady," he whispered. "Can you help me?"

"Yes," she replied. "I am Este, the Healer. I can heal all wounds and all weariness. You have been brought to me because I am the only one who can."

Valar. He remembered the word from Bilbo's and Gandalf's stories. They were the most powerful beings in Arda, the servants of Illuvatar himself, more powerful than anything he had encountered in Middle-earth. "You are Valar?" he asked. She smiled, caressing his cheek. Love emulated from her touch. Frodo had never felt a touch like hers since his mother had died. She touched him as a mother would touch her son, with all the love and tenderness a mother's hands could hold. "Yes, Frodo," she said.

Este stood up to her full height. She was indeed taller than any living being he had ever seen. He felt like a child again, staring up at his mother, thinking she was the most beautiful thing alive. "Rest for a while," she said. "Drink from my fountains and enjoy peace. I will return for you." She bent slightly and stroked his cheek again, then turned and walked away silently. Frodo watched her leave, the light of her form shining in the starlight.


Frodo spent what seemed like many days in the gardens of Lorien. Time was strange in Valinor -- it seemed to move more slowly, and some moments were filled with what seemed hours of thought. There were no seasons, only night and day, and nothing withered and died. All hours were filled with music and the sweet songs of nightengales.

There were some Elves who stayed there: some sought rest while others assisted the Valar and Maiar who dwelt there. They sang and spoke often in Quenya, the High Speech of story and song that was spoken in Valinor. Gandalf translated what they said so Frodo could understand. Some of them also spoke Sindarin, the Elven tongue of Middle-earth. Like all Elves Frodo had known, they were also fond of stories. They told many stories of both Valinor and Middle-earth, things even Bilbo had known nothing about. He walked with them and marveled at the tapestries hanging in the gardens of Lorien which told the story of the Valar before the Elves awoke. They always treated him with great respect and kindness, and some even marveled at him, never having laid eyes on a halfling. When they heard of his deeds, they admired him even more. Frodo would often blush and hang his head when they commended him, but they would just laugh at him, their voices joyful and musical.

He also spent time exploring the gardens of Lorien. Galadriel's realm in Middle-earth, that which he had thought most fair, had been a mere echo of their beauty. There were flowers in the gardens in every color he could have imagined, and fountains made of silver and marble filled with clear water that flowed endlessly. The grasses were filled with elanor, reminding him with a touch of sadness of Sam and Rose and their little daughter who would never remember him. The air was always filled with sweet scents.

Frodo was content, as content as he had been since before Bilbo had left the Shire. He missed Bilbo and often wondered what he was doing. Frodo imagined him never missing a meal, smoking his pipe in contentment and listening to the stories of the Elves. Thinking of him always brought a smile to his face.

One night, Frodo was sleeping peacefully, warm and comfortable on the soft couch the Elves had given him. He felt a gentle hand on his cheek and woke up. Este was standing in front of him, as beautiful as the reflection of the moon on the water in her fountains.

"Lady!" he said, nearly falling off the couch in his amazement and eagerness that she had returned. He tried to stand up to greet her, but his feet ended up tangled in the blankets and he had to quickly detatch himself, looking up sheepishly. She smiled at him, a look of tenderness in her grey eyes. "Have you rested, Frodo?" she asked. "Yes, Lady," he answered. "Thank you."

"I am afraid that I must take you from your rest for a while. Come with me." She placed her hand on his shoulder, wanting him to walk beside her. It took two of his small steps to keep up with her wide ones, but she did not hurry. He did not ask her questions, but enjoyed the feeling of the soft grass on his feet, cool with the night air.

After a few miles, they reached a clearing in the trees where a low circular stone building sat. They entered it through an archway and stood on the grass in the courtyard. In the center sat a beautifully carved pedestal. A silver basin of water sat on it. There were lamps all around the building that glowed with gentle candlelight. Two servants, a male and a female, stood by the pedestal and nodded their heads when Este came into view. There was a tall man with them. He was easily Este's height, if not taller, and he had long dark hair and grey eyes. Like Este, he looked Elvish, but was different from the Elves Frodo knew. He was dressed in beautiful silver robes and smiled slightly at Frodo.

"Frodo, look at me," he heard Este say beside him. He turned around to face her and looked up at her, a slight smile on his face. She smiled softly at him, a look of pity in her eyes. She touched him on his cheeks and whispered a few soft words. Suddenly, Frodo felt weak and he swayed. Este caught him as darkness swept over him and he fell.

 

4.

Frodo awoke to the sound of voices around him. They were calling to him out of the darkness, their hands touching him. As he came closer to consciousness, he felt the pain. His left side ached with it and he shivered uncontrollably. This was worse than his usual illness: when he had taken ill after the Ring was destroyed, he was still capable of holding conversations and moving around. He could barely breathe now. He had not been this sick since the last days of his journey to Rivendell.

He felt a warm, soft hand stroking his cheek and summoned all his strength to move his head towards it. He saw Este kneeling next to him, the light that surrounded her shining so bright it hurt his eyes to look at her. "Lady, help me," he whispered through ragged breaths. "Do not fear," she said. "It will soon be over." She laid a hand on his breast, hot against his cold skin. His heart was thumping and blood pounded in his ears. Somehow, he heard her voice: "Close your eyes, Frodo."

He did as she asked. Hands lifted him up into Este's arms and she cradled him. Another set of warm hands were placed on his head, the fingers stroking his temples. He shivered and moaned in pain from the cold that seized his side and shoulder. He tried to cry out, but his breathing hitched and he gasped, his mouth open in a silent scream of agony. He couldn't breathe. The pain he was in was unbearable; it was as if every inch of his body was on fire and drowning in deadly cold at the same time. Light and dark battled inside him. The darkness called to him: an end to the pain and the fear, if he would only let go.

Then he heard Este's voice, sharp as a sword in his mind. "Frodo, do not give up. Stay with us." It filled his head with images of everything beautiful he had ever known: the stars in the night sky, the sweet gentle waters of the Nimrodel, the face of Elanor as she laughed in his arms. He saw Arwen as she entered Minas Tirith with gems on her brow and the look in Aragorn's eyes when he saw her. The darkness rose to answer. He saw the faces of the Orcs as they questioned him in Cirith Ungol, licking the blood of their murdered comrades off their knives. "Sweet, sweet!" they said to him and laughed, their stinking breath in his face. He saw again the face of the pale king of the Nazgul, his blade striking Frodo in the shoulder and making it hurt afresh. Then it came: the Eye that had haunted his dreams. It was wreathed in flame, and he heard a voice calling for the Ring. It was as clear as if he was still wearing the Ring, but this time there was no escape. He was too weak to run. He felt himself falling and he grew colder and colder. It was the end.

He heard someone call him, a sense of urgency in the voice. "Frodo, come back!" With it came a sense of warmth that made him obey with his basic instincts. He came out of the darkness slowly and was hit with the pain again. His body shook violently and his heart pounded. Este's warm hand was still on his breast. He could barely feel it. He rolled his hands into fists, the nails biting into the flesh of his palms and cutting them. He felt hands on him, holding him down, and heard voices: the fair ones of the folk in Valinor speaking to him mixing with the evil voices of the Orcs he heard inside. It rose to a cacophony that made his head ache in pure agony. He longed to scream as loud as he could to drown them out, but he gasped for air, his chest heaving. Pain ran in waves through his shoulders and back. He felt trapped between the light and the darkness, each side so powerful that it threatened to tear his very spirit in two.

Through the agony in his body and the noise in his ears, he heard the voice of Este, as loud and strong as thunder. "Frodo, hear me! You must fight!" He heard her, and the voice commanded his attention. "Drive them out!" Through the darkness of his vision he saw her, standing in front of him, as beautiful as moonlight. Frodo felt the darkness inside and held it back, using all the strength he could muster. "No, no!" Este said. "Do not hold it back! You cannot! Look at me!"

He had no choice but to listen to her. Her voice was too powerful. His body writhed in torment and he felt like he was being ripped apart. He tried to focus on her, on the light. She smiled at him. "Do not fear," she whispered. "Let it pass through you." He forced his tortured mind with all his might to keep seeing her, to keep hearing her voice. Before his eyes she changed. She became a flame of pure white light, like being face-to-face with a star. "Let it pass through you," she repeated. Finally, the last remnants of his mind let go. The darkness threatened to engulf him, longing to pull him down. His side and shoulder flared with pain and he tried to scream in agony, but no noise would come from his throat. He heard her voice again, telling him not to fear, and he kept his mind on her. He felt a snap like a tether and the icy ache from his injured shoulder disappeared. Then the bright figure was Este again, her figure glowing with white light in a halo around her. She extended her hand, calling his name. He reached out for her, and he felt himself pulled with force towards her and the light around her.

Hands lifted him up and placed him back down on the grass. He was still gasping and he thought that he would never be able to breathe again. Frodo felt Este's hand grasp his and hold it tightly. "Calm yourself," she whispered. "Breathe deeply. You have done well." His body shook and then finally he was still. His heart and breathing slowed. Finally, he opened his eyes and saw her face, shining in the moonlight, Varda's stars above her. Her eyes were filled with love and tenderness. She was stroking his face, her thumb tracing the fine lines in the corner of his eye. Tears slipped down his cheeks, one falling onto her finger. Frodo tried to form words, but he was so weak that his mouth would not move the way he wanted it to. She touched his forehead, smiling at him. "Rest now, Frodo." His eyes closed and sleep claimed him.



It was not voices he heard when he awoke, but the sound of running water. It was still night outside and he was lying on the soft grass, a blanket wrapped around him. He was weak and could barely keep his eyes open, let alone move his limbs. "Lady?" he whispered, his voice hoarse. "I am here, Frodo," he heard her say, but he did not see her. "Rest and save your strength." He closed his eyes again, but did not sleep.

The silky blanket that covered him was taken off, and he felt hands at the buttons of his tunic. Someone was undressing him...he remembered the two servants who had stood by the pedestal and nodded to Este. Frodo was reluctant to have his clothing taken off, but he was too weak to protest and could only silently wonder what they were doing to him. He moaned in pain as he was moved into a sitting position, but someone put their arms around him and let him rest his head on their shoulder. Their clothing was soft on his cheek and had a sweet scent. Another person stroked his hair, whispering to him words of peace in a soft voice.

He felt warm water on his left shoulder, and he tensed and cried out softly in an automatic response. "The waters of my fountains have healing abilities," he heard Este say. "You will feel better soon." Once he was used to the water, it started feeling good and he relaxed. The hands on him were gentle, and Frodo could not remember a time when he felt so well cared for. They bathed all of his scars, paying special attention to the mark on his shoulder and the stump of his missing finger. They scrubbed his nails, which still had blood underneath them from when he had driven them into his palms. After a while, it stopped hurting when they moved him, though he still felt tired.

When they were finished, they dried him off and redressed him in clothes of a soft Elvish fabric that seemed to have been made especially for him. The jewel that Arwen had given him was slipped around his neck. He felt stronger and was able to sit up without help. They gave him some water in a silver cup that he had to grasp with both hands, and with it some sweet fruits and bread. He was placing the cup down when he saw a flash of something white. He brought it close enough to himself that he could see his reflection in it. In his hair, right above his brow, stood a streak of hair that was now completely white. He'd had grey hair before he journeyed West, but he'd never had a white streak in front.

He lowered the cup and looked at Este, who knelt in the grass close to him. She smiled slightly at him, but it was a male voice he heard. "One final mark, I am afraid." Frodo moved his head around quickly and discovered that the voice he had heard came from the tall male. Like Este, he had spoken to Frodo without opening his mouth. He stood by the pedestal, grass between his bare feet, the moonlight glistening on his silver robes. He was so tall that Frodo nearly had to lean backward to see him. "Who are you?" he asked, his voice trembling slightly. "I saw you before."

The tall man (or Elf, Frodo was not quite sure), sat down on the grass beside him. He looked deep into Frodo's eyes, much like Este had done when she first came to him. If Este had reminded him of his mother, this man reminded him of what he remembered of his father. His eyes were bright and keen, displaying both great wisdom and great curiosity. As the man looked at him, images suddenly filled Frodo's head: memories of his childhood in the Shire, the faces of his friends, the towers of Minas Tirith, and the dark desert of Mordor. Frodo shivered at the last memory; although it was dimmer than he remembered it, it was still enough to strike fear into his heart.

"They will always be with you, Frodo: these memories, both the pleasant and the unpleasant. Nothing we can do here will ever change that, nor would we want to. Your happiness and joy, as well as your suffering and sacrifice, are now part of you. But be comforted by the fact that no illness will ever touch you again while you dwell here in Aman. You have driven it out, though it almost destroyed you." Frodo reached up and ran his fingers through the white streak in his hair. "I was in too much pain to think much of anything, but all I wanted was for it to end." He paused. "The Lady healed me. I could not have done it on my own."

He heard the man's voice in his head again. "Este aided you along the way. She kept you alive and prevented you from slipping into darkness. It was you who finally confronted it, Frodo. It was you that drove it out." Frodo's eyes widened as he finally understood. "When I saw the Lady, I was ready to give up. She made me hold on. I thought I would go mad from all the voices I heard, but somehow I heard hers and listened. And then I saw her, and she told me I had to fight, and suddenly I had the strength in me." He sighed. "I would get sick before and it was so hard to hold the darkness off. I would long sometimes to give in, to just let it end. I was never strong enough before to drive it out. I would just hold it back, not try to expel it. That was the key, wasn't it?"

Este spoke. "Had you tried without our aid, it most certainly would have killed you. It nearly did just now. But you are very strong, Frodo. You do not realize the strength that lies within you. It was enough to help you bear a burden so powerful no one else would touch it." The man spoke again. "And I did my part, helping you to see Este and focus on her light. I am Irmo, master of visions and dreams. The Elves prefer to call me Lorien, and I answer to it. I sent you many dreams along your journey, both dark and light, for I knew that they would aid and guide you." Frodo thought of the dreams he could remember: the Sea and the shore with gemstones mixed in the sand; the glimpses he'd had of Sam and his family; and the dark dreams he had where he relived his journey in Mordor. He realized the dreams he'd often had of the Sea and the sparkling shore were of Valinor, long before he had made the decision to leave Middle-earth. He also thought of the shared dream between Faramir and Boromir, the one that had sent Boromir to Rivendell and into the Fellowship. "Did you know what was going to happen?" he asked.

"We do not know, or profess to know, the designs of Eru. Only my brother Namo knows, who keeps the Halls of Waiting, and he does not speak of the future. However, Eru does speak to us and we do what we can to fulfill his designs. It seems that you had a unique destiny, Frodo Baggins. Many small occurrences happened that led you along the path to do what Eru wished for you to do."

"Why me?" Frodo asked. "I failed. In the end I claimed the Ring and thought I had the power to challenge Sauron. It was only through luck that it was even destroyed."

"But it was destroyed," Lorien said. "The danger of the Ring was not in the power that it gave its master. While it was lost that power was lost as well. Its true danger was making its bearer think he could wield that power. When you volunteered for the Quest, the Wise knew that you would not be able to bear it to the end. Even you knew, but you went anyway. That was what you accomplished -- not being afraid to do a task that was thought impossible. There are few who would try such a task. It was your destiny to be one of them."

"How do you know so much about what happened in Middle-earth?" Frodo asked. "Do not think that because we live far away, we know nothing of the people in Middle-earth," Lorien replied. "We love all who dwell there, though that love sometimes causes us grief and pain. We aid you and watch over you in our own ways. We know that not all Men believe we exist and we do not blame them for thinking so, for they have never seen us with their own eyes. But though they may not believe in us, we do send them aid. We shaped Middle-earth with our own gifts and it will forever be dear to us."

Este rose. "No more questions, Frodo.  You have been through a lot tonight and you need your rest. There will be time enough to ask us whatever you like." Frodo did not argue with her. He did feel tired. He lay flat on the grass and one of the servants covered him with a blanket. He closed his eyes and listened to the quiet sounds around him for a few minutes, and then fell fast asleep.



He awoke back on his couch again, wrapped warmly. For a moment he thought that his experience had been a dream, but he was wearing the new clothes that he had been given. The tunic was soft and had buttons carved like beautiful golden flowers. He smiled when he looked at them, marvelling at the craftmanship of the Elves. His old clothes had been folded and placed on the ground beside him, but with a smile Frodo realized he much preferred his new ones.

He stretched and got up, looking at the Sun. It seemed to be early morning; the light of the Sun warmed the air but there was a layer of dew on the grass that made it feel cool under his feet. He walked around the garden, looking for Gandalf. The wizard had a habit of staying close by Frodo at night, though he seemed to need much less rest. Frodo called his name over and over, but Gandalf was nowhere to be found. "I suppose he'll be back soon," Frodo muttered and sat down on the cool grass. He did not feel weary. In fact, he felt better than he had in a long while. He thought about it for a few moments, and realized that he felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off him. He remembered clearly how he had felt just after the Ring had been destroyed, when he thought for sure he was going to die. He'd felt a great sense of peace then, a willingness to accept his own fate without a struggle. He and Sam had walked together, down to the ashen hill at the foot of the mountain. Then darkness had claimed him, but he accepted it. He'd hovered for what seemed like eternity between death and life, and it was only when he saw Aragorn that he came back fully...

He had not remembered before that it was Aragorn that called him back, through the grey mist and the darkness. He had only remembered waking up, surprised to be alive and too overjoyed to see Gandalf to think about much else. Gandalf had told him then how close they had come to losing him, but Frodo could not remember until now. For a while, his joy lasted -- joy in seeing his companions alive again, seeing the celebration in the city, and seeing Bilbo again. And then, as they drew closer to the Shire, the heaviness had come back. That day when they were crossing the Ford and he had taken ill, he realized that he would never be at peace. He had remembered Arwen's gift, but that day in Minas Tirith it had seemed so far away. Why would he want to pass West? There was so much still to do in Middle-earth. Had they known? Had Arwen and Gandalf and Elrond and Galadriel known that he would never find peace again? Frodo supposed they had. If they had told him, he might have given up the Quest and left the Ring to someone else to cast away. Before, he would have blamed them for not telling him, but now he understood. He remembered what Lorien had said to him, that he had a unique destiny. Eru had wished it, and so it was done. None of them could have turned him from his path.

He heard a quiet footstep nearby and turned toward it. A figure was walking towards him: he looked like a Man but was tall, slender, and fair like an Elf. He had dark hair and large blue eyes that sparkled with mirth yet contained depths of knowledge. He grinned at Frodo and sat down facing him, practically in the hobbit's lap. "Hail and well met, Frodo Baggins," he said. Frodo looked at him strangely, one eyebrow slightly cocked in a quizzical expression. "Hail and well met."

"I suppose you are wondering who I am," the man said. His voice was deeper than was normal for an Elf's. It had a slight gruffiness to it, like the scent of old leather. "Of course, being a well-mannered hobbit you are much too polite to ask anything. I daresay this is conduct unbecoming of a wizard, is it not?"

Frodo's eyes narrowed. "A wizard?" He thought for a second and then laughed. "Gandalf, is that you?" The man's grin grew wider. "There are few things that go over your head, Frodo." The hobbit stared at him for a few moments. The eyes...his eyes looked the same as Gandalf's had. They were bright and keen and twinkled with curiosity. "It is you!" Gandalf laughed and threw his arms around Frodo in a tight embrace. "This is such a wonderful surprise!" Frodo said, and Gandalf laughed. "I would have liked to toy with you a bit more, my friend. You should have seen the look on your face when I sat down beside you!" They both laughed and embraced again. "Gandalf, you look so different," Frodo said. "The only thing familiar about you are your eyes and your voice. Is this how you always look in the West? It is a bit difficult for me to forget the old grey wizard that I knew." Gandalf smiled at the comment. "We wear many different forms, and sometimes we wear no forms at all and travel invisible. When I was sent over Sea with the other Istari we were given the bodies of Men so that we could be closer to those we were sent to protect. I tended to look like this in my youth, back when I was known as Olorin."

Frodo's eyes widened. "I remember Faramir saying that name once. You told him that was what they called you here in the West. Should I call you that? It feels strange to me to call you Gandalf when you look so different." Olorin grasped Frodo's shoulders. "Call me whatever you like, Frodo. I have answered to many names in my life and I like them all." He studied Frodo with his bright eyes. "How are you feeling? Lord Irmo told me this morning that you had quite a trying time." Frodo paused for a moment, lowering his gaze, and then looked at him again. "I feel wonderful. I feel lighter, somehow, as if I've been carrying a weight on my shoulders for so long that I'd forgotten it was there, and now that it's gone I realize how heavy it was." Olorin nodded. "I know how you feel, my dear hobbit. I felt much the same after I came back from Moria. When the Valar sent me back, I was still in the body of a Man with all its weaknesses and shortcomings, but I felt stronger and lighter, as if all the cares I had carried for nearly an age had been lifted off of me." Olorin rose and extended his hand to Frodo. "If you are not too weary, I would like to hear more of what you experienced." Frodo took his hand and got up, accepting his offer.



More days passed. How many, Frodo was not sure, but as time went on he started to miss Bilbo more and more. He had never been to a place as fair as the gardens of Lorien before and did not want to leave, but his concern for Bilbo grew. He felt guilty for spending so much time away from him when the old hobbit was nearing the end of his life. He probably only had a few years left and Frodo had not spent a great deal of time with him since he had left the Shire twenty years before. Olorin seemed to sense how Frodo felt, but did not mention it. Frodo knew that Olorin was leaving the decision to him.

One night, Frodo was sitting by one of Este's fountains. It was not one of her larger or more beautiful ones, but Frodo had seemingly claimed it as his favorite. It was only a few feet wide but the bottom was plated in silver so that the stars above were reflected in the water. The edge of it was wide enough where Frodo could sit on it without worrying that he would fall into the water. The fountain was so clear that he could see his reflection in it. Tonight he wanted the aid of a looking-glass.

He had noticed when he was dressing that the scar on his shoulder had faded. Before it had been a pale but large mark on his shoulder, raised where the skin had knit together when it healed. Now it was smaller and only slightly raised. He supposed it would never go away, but he was surprised to realize that he liked it being there. His scars would always be with him, like Lorien had said. They had become a part of him, like his hair or his eyes. Frodo would never have felt the same if they were gone.

He was studying his reflection in the fountain when he felt a presence behind him and turned around. Este stood there glimmering, with a gentle smile on her face. She walked toward him and sat down on the edge of the fountain, dipping one of her hands into the water. "I once knew a hunter named Tilion who would come to this fountain and stare in it for days on end. He loved silver above all else, and carried a silver bow with him wherever he went. He told me that he loved the way the water looked silver in this fountain and how the light would glint off it. When the vessel of the Moon was made, he begged us to be allowed to guide it, for it was the last silver flower of Telperion the White. We agreed, but his path is erratic and unusual. He longs to be near to Arien who guides the Sun. Sometimes they meet, and darkness comes during the day. We can sense his joy when he is near her."

Frodo smiled. "I remember one of those times, from when I was a child," he said. "The sky grew dark in the middle of the day, and many of the hobbits went inside because they were frightened. I didn't, though. I stayed outside and watched, and it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I remember feeling sorry for the hobbits who hid themselves, because they missed something remarkable." He sighed. "It is so beautiful here, Lady. I cannot imagine a place that is more peaceful or more fair. I do not want to leave, but I miss Bilbo. Olorin told me not to worry about him, but he is very old, Lady. I want to spend as much time with him as I can. I fear that he does not have much longer, and once he is gone, I will be alone. Bilbo is the only family I have left."

Este smiled at him, a touch of sadness in her eyes. "I know that you love him, Frodo. He was brought West not only to be healed of his want for the Ring, but because you love him. Do not think we underestimate what he means to you. But Bilbo has some years left in him. Not many, but more than you realize. I know that you would like to spend those years with him." She paused. "You and Bilbo are the first mortals who have ever dwelt in the Undying Lands. We have not the power nor the right to take your mortality from you, for it is a gift from Eru. Your mortality is part of who you are. No illness will touch you here in the West, but you will age and grow weary. When that happens, you may give up your life freely and loose your ties with this world. We know not what happens to you afterward, but we know that it is not anything to be afraid of. And then a day will come when we all will meet again and sing in a Great Music for Eru who created us."

"I am not scared," Frodo said. "I will tell Bilbo what you told me, although I don't think he's quite ready to go yet. Thank you for everything you have done for me." Este rose and ran her fingers through Frodo's hair. "Three nights from now, meet us here when the Moon is at his highest. We will make our farewells to you."

"Thank you, Lady," Frodo said and bowed. She smiled softly at him and walked away.



Three nights later, Olorin and Frodo waited to say farewell. Olorin had agreed to come back to Eressea with Frodo, for he wanted to spend time with the hobbits. "Won't you miss Valinor?" Frodo had asked, but Olorin chuckled. "I won't spend every waking moment with you, my friend! I suspect there will be much coming and going between Eressea and Valinor these days." Frodo had laughed and agreed. Olorin had become a bit more serious and told Frodo that Este had asked him to guide both Frodo and Bilbo in their recoveries. "You have driven the greater part of the darkness out of yourself, Frodo," he had said, "but there is still more to be done. The Ring made its mark on both your hearts and we will do our best to remedy it. It will not be easy and it might take a long while, but I promise that we will do everything in our power to aid you both."

Now Frodo sat at the edge of the fountain, watching the leaves sway in the gentle breeze. He could hear the singing of the Elves and the Maiar from a short distance away. Then he saw Este and Lorien walking towards him on the grass. His face broke out into a grin and the two Valar smiled warmly at him. "Greetings, Frodo and Olorin," Lorien said. "Before you depart, Este and I have a gift for you," He knelt on the ground, beckoning Frodo to come closer. Frodo stood in front of Lorien, who closed his eyes gently with his fingers and clasped Frodo's hands. Frodo saw a ship in front of him at the docks of Avallone. Elves were walking off it, some into the waiting embraces of long-waiting kin and friends. One small figure walked with them, barely visible between the tall Elves. His hair was all white and his face was wrinkled, but his brown eyes sparkled with barely contained excitement. "Sam," Frodo whispered, his eyes filling with tears. Sam was so close -- he was walking on the quay, his eyes searching the croud of Elves who had come to greet the ship, looking for the one face he had come so far to see. Frodo tried to run forward to greet him, but before he could, the vision faded. Frodo opened his eyes and looked at Lorien. "You will see him again, but it will not be for many years," he said. "And you will have many more years after that to spend together. We want you to know he is coming, so you will not give up your life before he comes." Frodo turned his head to Este, who looked at him with fondness in her eyes. Lorien stood to his full height and majesty, but he had a kind smile on his face. "I will send you a dream when it is time. Until then, be blessed and healed, Frodo Baggins."

"I cannot thank you enough for all you have done for me," Frodo said, looking at both of them. Este blessed him, her soft hands touching his forehead. "There is no need. It has been a pleasure to us to know you and learn about you, for we delight in discovering new things. You are at the beginning of another long journey, but peace lies at the end of your road." Then, to Frodo's surprise, she knelt and embraced him. He put her arms around her, holding her tightly. She let go and tears freely rolled down Frodo's cheeks. "Thank you so much, Lady," he whispered. She smiled at him, wiping his tears away with her fingers and caressing his face.

Then she stood and Lorien clasped her hand. Frodo bowed and Olorin tipped his head in respect to both of them. "Until we meet again," he said. "Farewell, Olorin," Lorien answered. He and Frodo turned and started walking away. After a few minutes, Frodo turned back and saw the Valar still standing together, the light around them making them look like one form. He raised their hand to them in farewell, then turned and walked faster. He did not look back again.


It was sunset when the ship pulled in to the harbor of Avallone. The voices of the Elves were raised to welcome the starlight. Shadowfax walked slowly, taking his time in riding through the city. Deep night had fallen when they reached the hall where Frodo and Bilbo both dwelt. Olorin left Frodo off, telling him he would see him in the morning. "I am sure Bilbo will be glad to see you," he said with a smile. Frodo smiled back at him and went inside.

He walked down the long hallway to Bilbo's room, his quiet hobbit footsteps making no noise in the silent hall. Suddenly, he started walking faster, and then he was running like a tween being caught stealing from a pantry. He ran as fast as he could, smiling and laughing as the wind stroked his face. He ran all the way to Bilbo's door. The old hobbit was sitting in a chair, his small body almost buried in it. He had a book of Elvish lettering on his lap and he was obviously trying to study. "Bilbo!" Frodo yelled, running toward him. Bilbo turned toward Frodo, his eyes shining with happiness. "Oh, Frodo my lad! I am so happy to see you!" The hobbits wrapped their arms around each other, and Bilbo held Frodo with a surprising amount of strength. They pulled away long enough to realize they were both weeping, and Bilbo ran his fingers through Frodo's dark curls, fingering the small streak of white in the front. He cupped Frodo's chin in his hands, taking a good look at him. "My boy, you look wonderful! I haven't seen you look this happy...well, since that silly party of mine all those years ago! You must tell me everything that happened, of course." He moved over and Frodo was surprised to discover they both fit in the chair together. They sat facing each other and talked for hours, having a good talk as only hobbits could.

Eventually Bilbo fell asleep, and Frodo covered him with a blanket. He stood by him a moment, stroking his white hair fondly with a smile on his face. He walked over to the balcony and looked out, past the green cliffs of Avallone and onto the dark sea that shone tipped with silver in the moonlight. He looked at the Moon and thought of Este's story of Tilion, and the story of Earendil the Mariner, father of Elrond, who bore a Silmaril through the night sky. He could see it, far above him, glinting like an adamant, and for the first time, it wasn't just a story told by the Elves in the Hall of Fire. It was real, as real as anything had ever been to him. He remembered the way Este's hands had felt on him, and knew her to be real. The Valar weren't just a reverent name to him -- they had faces, they had voices, they had smells and touches and grass between their toes. Valinor was real to him, and Tol Eressea. He was finally home, and he knew that he would find peace.

 

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